Thank you for this thoughtful question.
If I was speaking to a white majority group of evangelicals about blind spots when liaising with the black majority church, I would address what seems to be a tendency of white evangelicals to shrug off the tragedies that ancestors of the faith have committed in the past and talk about the universal, equal and loving family of God. There seems to be a focus upon how we are all one and made in the image of God, which implies the need for black Christians to forgive. Whilst I believe this is true, sometimes we can be too quick to proclaim a fresh start or a new day, rather than first repenting and asking for forgiveness for what has been done in the past. Maybe we don’t apologise for the past because it would be the same thing as admitting that we are wrong…
One example of past wrongs in the UK is the experience of many founders of black majority/black Pentecostal churches; when they arrived in the UK and began attending white majority churches, many were asked not to return because they were black. As such, these black pioneers went on to have house prayer meetings and then began to rent buildings eg. community halls or church halls until they were able to buy their own buildings. With this memory still alive, simply focusing upon God’s grace and our oneness as a Church family without repentance seems to undermine the unjust past experience.
I think a beautiful example of genuine Christian apology is with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently visited a memorial which commemorated the deaths of nearly 400 Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs who were killed in the 1919 massacre at Amritsar in India. He said these words, “The souls of those who were killed or wounded, of the bereaved, cry out to us from these stones and warn us about power and the misuse of power. I cannot speak for the British government … but I can speak in the name of Christ and say this is a place of both sin and redemption, because you have remembered what they have done and their names will live, their memory will live before God. And I am so ashamed and sorry for the impact of this crime committed here.” Whilst the past cannot be changed, repentance and apology say something about Welby’s heart posture.
Repentance is also an issue for all Christians, regardless of race, when we are asked questions about ‘Christian’ violence in history such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, colonialism and the reformation. What is our apologetic? We can point to the offences of atheist regimes eg. The horrors of Stalinist Russia or Mao Zedong’s Peoples Republic of China, and these examples have great rhetorical force. However, for me, an even greater display of Christ’s love is the repentant heart committed to positive steps forward and change.
I hope this makes sense and thank you for asking the question.